A Case Study in Sustainable Initiative with Paul Fox, Director of Business Development, Merryhill Envirotec Ltd
Kiki: Paul, how did you get involved with the sustainability agenda?
Paul: In the mid 2000s, Merryhill wanted to further differentiate ourselves from the run-of-the mill sub-contractor; sometimes seen as fish-fodder down the supply chain if you like, so we needed to present ourselves as a 21st century business and that meant doing things differently.
That’s when the sustainable agenda really came in for me about 5 years ago. It’s so much more than cutting down on water or paper usage, it’s all about what we can offer our clients as well, some of whom are talking more and more about their own sustainability agendas. They are quite shocked sometimes, especially some of the bigger ones, that they can see a relatively lowly company like Merryhill trying to put sustainability at the centre of everything that we do. We’re not there yet and there’s more that we need to be doing.
Kiki: Can you give us a working example?
Paul: One of our two major clients Wates Construction, a £1bn+ turnover business, have their own CSR agenda and as part of that above a certain level of management they each have a set number of days per year where they go out of the business to do something to benefit their community and other actions.
That’s one of the ways they go about demonstrating their CSR. As part of that they’ve got to try and work with their supply chains to ‘lift their supply chains up in terms of sustainability issues’. Anyway I got talking to them last year, took a couple of project managers out, talked about PLATO: Sustain, and they were quite blown away really. I suggested that rather than they tell us what they expect from us in that field, how about me coming to them in Basingstoke to talk to senior managers about how it affects a small business like Merryhill in the industry we work in.
We shared with them how we try to employ everybody from within 15 miles for example. How we implement a sustainable procurement policy ruthlessly, using suppliers based within 10 miles of us wherever possible. Every employee is offered ongoing occupational health screening, and we encourage flexible working (subject to client demands of course) to reflect staff’s circumstances. I know that roughly 80% of wages earned by Merryhill staff are spent within the local Romsey economy, and I think that’s a fantastic statistic. I want Merryhill to be a sustainable business for all of us, and those who depend on us.
a) an excellent service in our main disciplines, and
b) extra value & input to our clients’ whole CSR and sustainability expertise
Kiki: How does this help make Merryhill a successful company?
Paul: This approach has given us a form of competitive advantage in what is still a very traditional sector. There are currently 200 companies in the UK that hold a valid license to do what we do, remove asbestos, we are all of varying sizes and Merryhill is small in size. We can train our people to the best of our ability to remove asbestos, but that’s no longer enough to offer to stakeholders.
Strategically, I see Merryhill being in a longer-term relationship with the likes of Wates Construction and in order to do that Merryhill needs to put itself at the heart of their supply chain.
Kiki: It’s interesting to note that you’re referring to an ‘embedded relationship’ rather than a just contracted in and out ‘job-done’ approach, it’s about longer term relationship building via adding value and sharing experiences, lessons etc on the sustainability agenda.
But what about business owners who say that they can’t be looking strategically as they’re too worried about getting new clients through the door, let alone keeping old ones? That there are other more pressing issues than sustainability right now?
Paul: Strategically, business owners must constantly look at different ways of doing things, to start thinking about things that they didn’t think about 3 years ago. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive, but it does need passion, senior level interest and getting staff involved creatively.
Kiki: Thank you Paul.